Following a dominant 19-12 win over North Carolina, No. 3 Virginia men’s lacrosse continued their road stretch with a visit to Durham, N.C. to take on No. 2 Duke Saturday. The Cavaliers (8-3, 2-2 ACC) — having dropped their earlier meeting with the Blue Devils (11-2, 4-1 ACC) — witnessed their regular-season losing streak against Duke extend to 18 games in a 15-14 defeat.
A sloppy start to the game put Virginia in a hole, with two early turnovers from sophomore attacker Griffin Schutz leading to Duke’s first tally. The Blue Devils’ junior attacker Brennan O’Neill — one of the frontrunners for the coveted Tewaaraton Award — then snuck one past the Cavaliers’ sophomore goalie Matthew Nunes to put Duke up 2-0.
Following a tough clear by junior defender Cole Kastner, senior attacker Payton Cormier notched his 35th goal of the season on a close sidearm shot. Duke answered, but Virginia cut the lead to one off of a stepdown from senior midfielder Peter Garno. With turnovers still plaguing the Cavaliers, the Blue Devils rattled off three straight to make it 6-2 by the end of the first quarter.
Cormier stopped the bleeding with his second goal of the day, but Duke responded several minutes later with three consecutive tallies — the third resulting from a penalty on Virginia graduate student face-off specialist Petey LaSalla. The Blue Devils couldn’t be stopped during their four-goal run, with O’Neill blowing by the Virginia defense for his second goal of the day.
Graduate student midfielder Jeff Conner finally got the Cavaliers on the board, yet Virginia could not convert two great last second looks before the half. The Blue Devils — having forced eight turnovers and having limited the Cavaliers to seven shots on goal — dominated en route to a 10-4 halftime lead. LaSalla only won four of 15 face-offs, as Virginia struggled with possession all throughout.
Cormier started the scoring for the Cavaliers in the second half with a tight finish to trim Duke’s lead to five. Nunes robbed two close opportunities from the Blue Devils, and the Cavaliers notched their third straight on a transition goal from Schutz. Another huge save from Nunes resulted in a Kastner assist to junior attacker Connor Shellenberger, cutting the lead down to three.
The Blue Devils — having scored 10 in the first half alone — finally got themselves on the board in the third quarter with two consecutive goals. Schutz then fought through traffic for his second of the day to give Virginia a 5-2 differential in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, senior attacker Xander Dickson answered another Duke tally with a wild backhand shot to bring the lead to 13-9. Following a Blue Devil turnover, graduate midfielder Evan Zinn raced down the field untouched to give the Cavaliers their second straight. A massive offsides call against Virginia, however, gave Duke a quick restart and an open goal to stymie a Cavalier run.
Schutz converted his third of the day after a chaotic ground-ball sequence. Duke staved off a Virginia comeback and brought the lead to 15-11 with 4:01 to play, yet sophomore midfielder Noah Chizmar scored seconds later to keep the Cavaliers’ hope alive. Cormier — Virginia’s leading scorer on the day — then beat a double-team to register his fourth of the day and cut the advantage to two.
Dickson’s second goal of the day — following a forced turnover on Duke — gave Virginia a chance to tie the game and send it to overtime. O’Neill regained possession yet found his shot saved by Nunes, allowing the Cavaliers one final chance at a historic comeback. Duke graduate student goalie William Helm stopped an open look from Virginia’s premier crease finisher in Cormier to give Duke a 15-14 win.
The Cavaliers overcame a seven-goal deficit in the second half yet ultimately fell short, dropping their 18th straight regular-season loss to the Blue Devils. Nunes played arguably his best game of the season amidst some struggles from the defense, while Cormier and Schutz combined for seven total goals to keep Virginia afloat. LaSalla, however, put together an uncharacteristically poor performance after going 11 of 32 from the face-off X.
A combination of turnovers, face-off woes and subpar defensive play contributed to the Cavaliers’ third loss of the season and second to the Blue Devils. Virginia will now look to bounce back against another ACC foe in Syracuse next Saturday in Charlottesville. Face-off is scheduled for 2 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPNU.